Ambani’s Reliance studying possible bid for Walgreens’s Boots chain

A pedestrian wearing a protective face passes a Boots pharmacists in London on July 9, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Simon Dawson.

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. is weighing a possible bid for Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.’s international drugstore unit, according to people familiar with the matter.

Reliance is in the early stages of exploring the feasibility of an offer for the Boots chain, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information.

Ambani, one of India’s richest men, is in the midst of pivoting his traditionally refining-focused conglomerate toward businesses that will better help him tap India’s billion-plus consumers. He’s also been chasing deals in Europe, including in the telecoms sector.

Boots could be valued at as much as 7 billion pounds ($9.1 billion) in a sale, Bloomberg News reported previously.

Deliberations are ongoing and there’s no certainty Reliance will decide to pursue an approach for Boots, according to the people. A representative for Walgreens declined to comment, while a spokesperson for Reliance didn’t immediately provide comment.

Shares of Walgreens, which also owns Duane Reade and Mexico’s Benavides, closed up 0.8% on Wednesday, valuing the Deerfield, Illinois-based business at almost $39 billion.

Walgreens kicked off the sale of Boots earlier this year. It’s drawn interest from private equity firms including Apollo Global Management Inc. and TDR Capital. It attracted Bain Capital and CVC Capital Partners, who joined forces and were considered early favorites before abandoning their pursuit. The bidders that remain keen on Boots could also consider teaming up, one of the people said.

Walgreens is weighing a potential initial public offering of Boots, which runs a chain of roughly 2,200 stores in the U.K. that includes brands such as No7 Beauty Company, if buyout interest is muted, Bloomberg News reported previously.

Some of the private equity bids have been well below Walgreens’s desired price, increasing the chances of a paused sales process or listing, according to the people. The U.S.-based company is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks and may opt to keep a minority stake in Boots in any transaction, they said.

Boots also has smaller operations in Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands and Thailand, as well as an optician business and a suite of private-label beauty and personal-care brands that could be included in a sale.

Walgreens has been shifting toward expanding into other health-care businesses in recent months, as drugstores face increased competitive pressure from Inc. and other online retailers. In October, it agreed to invest $5.2 billion in primary-care provider VillageMD, doubling its stake in the company.



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